Heroin Addiction and Letting Go of Anger

I’m writing this narrative explaining my experience with being a dad of a son with a heroin addiction.  For a long time I suspected that my son, Matthew, was on drugs; he looked terrible, was always in a bad mood and never seemed too happy to spend any time with the family.  I knew he was smoking marijuana and every time I tried to talk to him about his life, he just played it off as being tired from work and that it was “just smoking pot.”  Of course, I always thought that I would certainly be able to tell if he was on hard drugs. I mean a large sign would come down from the heavens saying, “Hey, your son is on drugs.”  I’m sure I was in denial, no way would my son be on hard drugs; he comes from a great family, we did fun things, he played sports his whole life.  I was sure that he could never hold down a full time job if he was on drugs; after all, he had been working for almost a year and a half and making his car payment every month.

My famous directive to my son, and it was usually delivered at the top of my lungs was “no hard drugs.”  JUST WHAT THE HELL IS SO HARD ABOUT THAT?  Rules are rules; follow the rules and there would be no trouble.  But I learned the hard way; addicts have no concept of rules.  Now I understand what was so hard about that.

As soon as I learned about Matthew’s addiction, which he finally admitted to his mother because he had come to the end of the line with his job and money, I decided to take control and have him stay with me so that I could detox him 24/7.  I am retired and could stay home and get him through this detox.  However, I soon realized that it was impossible to monitor him every minute.  Heroin addiction is a very powerful adversary; Matthew was having bad stomach problems and could not control his vomiting.  I took him to urgent care several times to get him IVs for dehydration.  Of course I was too embarrassed to tell the doctor what the real problem was and I was angry that I couldn’t control his detox.

I am a hardheaded stubborn guy and a bit of a control freak.  It took me a long time to learn that my anger was a result of me not being able to control my son’s addiction. Eventually I learned that I have a small measure of influence with him.  The only real control I have is over my own self.

I finally broke down and told the doctor that Matthew was going through withdrawal from heroin addiction.  Turns out that the doctor’s son was in a recovery house for alcoholism.  He told me about a psychologist in the area that specialized in addicts.  He swore by this guy and said he had saved his son’s life.  I made an appointment with the psychologist without Matthew; his mother and I decided that this recovery community sounded like the only hope.  Of course the recovery community was New Life House in Torrance. We gave Matthew no choice and dropped him off with the guys there.

Flash forward seven months: Matthew is a completely different person.  He is clean, not addicted, looks great; and for the first time in years, he smiles…..

It’s not just that he’s clean, he has a whole new outlook on life; he doesn’t complain or get mad, seems to have taken more responsibility for his life and actions. He acts strong and determined; most importantly, he has developed great friends at New Life House, the missing ingredient. So for the first time in years, I smile…..

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  • Leslie Kelley
    Posted at 08:30h, 08 May Reply

    Thank you for sharing your experience with Matthew. It sounds very familiar. We too chose to believe our son was “just” smoking weed, however some day’s he could hardly thread a sentence together. Being in denial and somewhat naive we were comforted by the fact that he came home from college for summer break and was working and picking up classes at the community college. What person could do hard drugs while working and taking college courses?? My son is 9 months sober and still working hard with New Life House to understand his addiction and what this means for him and the rest of his life.

    • Martha
      Posted at 13:21h, 09 May Reply

      Leslie, I appreciate your comments. Now that I know what I know, I don’t think it’s off base to suggest parents operate on the principle that whatever they think their kids are doing – it’s more than likely times 10! I’m happy your son’s at NLH. Martha

  • Debbie O-A
    Posted at 22:47h, 08 May Reply

    Thank you for sharing! We parents choose to see what we want to see and it’s humbling to realize how little control we have once our children become teenagers. It made me laugh to read that you are a bit of a control freak. Who amongst us isn’t! It is amazing isn’t it, when you give up control to others, and to our Higher Power, what miracles can happen.

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